Tamara Louis, 30, is an architectural designer living in Oulu and working at Uki Architects. She came to Oulu from Russia in September 2012. She has a double degree in Civil Engineering and is studying Architecture. Oulu Talent Hub interviewed Tamara Louis about her thoughts on living and working in Oulu.
What do you think about Oulu?
My first impressions about Oulu were very different from how I experience the city now. Probably because I have myself changed a lot too as well as Oulu. The first shock was when I saw people biking all the time. People bike here in Oulu everywhere: to work, school and even parties. It was weird. It doesn´t matter how old you are, or what your status is, everyone is biking.
I was a girl from Russia, where at that time bikes were just equal to a sport, not to transportation. In the beginning, I said that I will never bike like others. But soon enough I changed my mind up until now I continue biking all the time, even in the winter.
Another culture shock was at the university, when I found out that in Finland we always address to others even strangers or older people with “sinä” (= singular/informal you). In Russia, the culture is truly different and respectfully we should call new people as well older and even just colleagues with “Te “ (= formal You).
It may seem like a small difference but believe it or not, it does take time for adjustment. I think it is representing equality and a small hierarchy overall in Finnish culture and an informal way of communication. Wearing woolen socks without shoes at the office and university is part of this relaxed way of life, and I must say I do enjoy it.
What do you think about the working life in Oulu?
What I really like is the work schedule here. Many offices start the day at 8 a.m. and finish it at 4 p.m., which allows employees to have space for family and hobbies. Because the distances in Oulu are not so big, you don’t have to spend that much time on the road. I appreciate this a lot.
It is also valued, that you have free time and the possibility to recover from work stress and so on. To do that, many companies try to endorse those activities with different kinds of bonus systems. For example, the company, I work at, gives employees twice a year a special bonus card with a certain sum, which you may use only for cultural, sports or massage activities.
Originally the main reason for moving to Finland was a relationship matter. Complementing my Russian Diploma with European Degree seemed to be a good option to start a life in a new country, so I have applied to study here.
I have noticed quite soon that I like living in Oulu, so I decided to stay. To be honest I have almost left back to my home country because it was quite hard for me to get a job in Finland as a foreigner, when I just arrived as I didn’t speak Finnish at all. I must admit, it was kind of depressing not to be able to get any job, while you have a decent degree.
At the same time, while I was searching for jobs in Oulu, I applied for a few positions in Russia – and voilá – I was invited for interviews to all of them. Here, in Oulu, most of the time, probably 99 % of the companies were not even responding to my applications.
You may imagine my feelings: to pack my stuff and go back home and build a career, where I could have at least an opportunity to do it. Well, as you can guess, I didn´t leave in the end. I kept searching for open positions across the internet. I was applying again and again, and actually, I did get one interview in the academic field in Helsinki, but it didn´t work out either – luckily.
How to get a job in Oulu?
As a tip for job seekers, if you don´t get anything through vacancies websites, try to go to the webpage of BusinessOulu, where you can get a listing of companies according to their category. There I found lots of civil engineering and architecture companies and I have started to send open applications to many of them.
Though my degree is in Civil Engineering, I was passionate about Architecture, so I tried to enter this field too. To a big surprise, I got a reply from Uki Architects, which was on top of my list of interest, and I started my internship soon after.
After the internship period I had a small break due to personal issues and I came back again there for a year contract. After my next break on maternity leave, I came back for a permanent position there again.
Nowadays I look back at the times when I couldn’t get jobs anywhere else and I am glad it went this way. I feel myself really lucky to get exactly in this company, where I am now. I love the office and we have a wonderful and friendly atmosphere.
My colleagues are very supportive and had the patience to help me to learn Finnish language, while they could easily switch to English. Step by step I started to get more responsible tasks and now I already lead some projects. Also this year I have started studying Architecture to grow professionally out of Engineer and get even more interesting tasks in the future.
All in all, if you would like to come and live in Oulu, you have to search for employers and companies in your field on the internet and social media. Even if they don’t have open positions, you can always send an open application to show that you are motivated, just like I did. I guess my key to success, in the end, was high motivation for that exact company too, I knew what projects they were doing and they matched my interest.
Even if you don’t speak Finnish, it is good to show you are eager to learn it – even if the company communicates in English. As I mentioned earlier, when I came to Oulu, I could not speak even one word in Finnish.
How to get into the Finnish lifestyle?
One of the positive sides of Oulu is that the city is very close to the nature. You don’t need to travel much to get to the forest. I have just a few hundred meters to walk to the nearest little forest.
Oulu and Finland overall provide a variety of nature activities and sports opportunities. I have started trail running, which is a big part of my life now.
In my opinion, Oulu is a perfect environment for families, as well for international ones too. I have a five-year-old daughter and I am happy to feel she is not considered as a foreigner. Her multicultural background is taken most positively.
She is a multilingual child and going to the municipal daycare is not a problem at all. While none of us parents speak Finnish to her, she learned the language at the day care with a good support from her teachers there. I have heard similar feedback from my friends who have a similar situation as us.
Here you can easily integrate into the society if you want to. Here are different clubs and communities, for example, I am participating in Junior Chamber International, which gives opportunities to meet new people and develop personal and work life skills.
The whole year round there are some nice festivals and interesting events in Oulu, one of them is a unique event – the Air Guitar World Championships.
Tamara Louis tells her story on a video:
Oulu Talent Hub
- Oulu Talent Hub brings together and develops regional opportunities and services for international recruitment.
- Oulu Talent Hub offers talents, for example, contacts with local companies, matchmaking events and info sessions, company visits, a tandem model for internship programmes and career counselling. For Oulu Talent Hub, international talent is defined as international specialists, employees, researchers and students.
- Oulu Talent Hub aims to promote international talent employment to companies in the Oulu region and open up employment paths for international talent.
- Project partners are BusinessOulu, Oulu Chamber of Commerce, University of Oulu, Oulu University of Applied Sciences and Oulu Vocational College.
- The project is funded by The European Social Fund, ESF.
- Learn more about Oulu Talent Hub at oulutalenthub.fi.